At the beginning of the school year, TrueBlue Academy became a reality due to the commitment of 16, now 19, dedicated volunteers. These volunteers are matched one on one with seven elementary students and twelve middle school students at Newaygo Public Schools. Together these matches are working through various challenges to discover their spark, their purpose, in life.
Andrew, an 8th grader, was matched with Dave, a retired pastor, and they quickly became very close. Andrew, like many middle school students, was struggling to find purpose in his school work. He loves to read for fun, but has average grades in his English classes. During a book tasting where books were tailored specifically for each student in TrueBlue Dave and Andrew talked more about his love of reading funny graphic novels. Andrew is now more motivated to improve his English grade this semester.
Through TrueBlue, Dave realized that Andrew was most engaged when he was using his hands to make things and when they were joking around. Dave also saw a way to use Andrew's talent of making things to engage him in another subject Andrew was struggling with in school- science. At Dave's house the two have been building a rocket for the past few months. After a few finishing details the chemical reaction, Andrew helped create, will hopefully lead to a successful launch. Many TrueBlue mentees are starting to see a purpose in their education. So far 88% of mentees have better grades than the previous school year, and 75% of mentees have better attendance compared to last year.
Outside of academics, TrueBlue mentors are supporting their mentees on a personal level. Andrew and Dave have built a strong foundation of trust over the months they have been matched. Andrew knows when he's having a rough day at home or his teenage emotions are getting the best of him, Dave is there for him. Whether it's to talk things out or provide a safe place to think in quiet, Andrew knows he can contact Dave for help. The strong relationships these matches are developing show impact both inside and outside of the classroom. Since their involvement in TrueBlue, 100% of mentees have lower behavior referrals than the previous school year.
"I like being a mentor because it makes me feel like I'm doing my part to make the world a better place. I became a mentor because my grandpa was my mentor and he had a huge impact on my life and it made me the man I am today," said Ross, a mentor to Jacob, a Newaygo Elementary student, "I try to pay it forward and give back in ways that I am able too." Ross continues, "My favorite outing with Jacob was when we went to Artprize, he really enjoyed it as well. We saw a lot of really cool art that day and it'll be something that him and I can look back on when we're older. Narrowing it down to one favorite event is quite hard to do though; we've had a lot of good times and have made some good memories so far.